Wood Spoon LA

Everywhere I travel, I always like to go to at least 1 dinner destination that I have read about online, or in a magazine, or gotten a referral from a fellow foodie.  Recently I traveled to LA for a week, for my day job, engineering.  My sister and I met up with a friend, who is now a resident of Cali.  When I tell you the dining experience at Wood Spoon was top notch, from service to flavors to selection…

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Frango Com Quiabo (Stewed chicken with okra and polenta)

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Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie and black beans

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Bode (Traditional goat stew served with goat grits and bitter greens)



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Rice Pudding

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 For dessert, a sweet custard

IMG_0070There is nothing like dining at a restaurant that is a small business owned and operated by a woman.  Natalia Pereira, the Brazilian genius that created this Downtown LA treasure makes you feel like you stopped in a local restaurant in Brazil.  Natalia spent some time sitting and talking to us as we finished our meal.  She is a true foodie, her refreshing stories  of her cross country travels and dining experiences at some of the greatest food stops in the country was delightful.  You can taste the humility in every bite of food, and it is no wonder that some of the top chefs have nothing but wonderful things to say about her food.  I can’t wait to return to Wood Spoon on my next visit to LA.

It’s Island Time – Jamaican Jerk Whole Fish

You know, cleaning fish really isn’t that bad.  I just got over the fear of cleaning a fish.  Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have anything to do with getting the guts out, I haven’t graduated to that level yet.

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Next time I will cut off the fins, they kept stabbing me as I was cleaning the fish (getting all of the scales off).

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I cut into the flesh and added slices of butter before I smeared wet Jamaican Jerk rub all over and inside of the fish.

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After letting the fish marinate for a few hours, I wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven for about 30 minutes on 350 degrees.

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The Snapper came out so tender, the jerk was fire hot, but so good, I didn’t even mind the heat.  The cooling comes from the cabbage and fried plantains.

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Consider this meal for a dinner party with an island theme.  Its humble, but it is delicious, and it is easy, so that you can focus on entertaining, and not worry about fussing over the food, and not getting a chance to be a part of the party.

Simple Blackened Salmon

I love a meal that doesn’t require a great deal of preparation, but rather a simple and clean presentation and lots of flavor, like this blackened salmon recipe.  Food never has to be complicated especially if it is something you are preparing during your busy work week.  I decided to throw together a recipe that I saw on foodnetwork.com.  This is such a simple and quick meal, its another meal to impress a dinner guest.

Anyone can relate to the need to have a good meal, but at the same time having demanding family, work etc.  I have added this to my go to meals to keep it healthy and tasty.

Salmon fillets and mise en place

Salmon fillets and mise en place

Cauliflower puree prep

Cauliflower puree prep

To make the puree simply steam a head of cauliflower with 3 whole cloves of garlic.  Once the vegetable is fully cooked through, transfer it and the garlic cloves to the blender, and add about 2 Tablespoons of ghee and season with salt and white pepper.  Yep, that easy

Blackening spices:  cayenne, paprika, salt, and fresh oregano and thymeBlackening spices: cayenne, paprika, salt, and fresh oregano lemon zest and thyme

Mix all of your ingredients to create the blackening seasoning

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Coat only the flesh side with the blackening seasoning

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Hot Canola Oil flesh side down first

Hot Canola Oil flesh side down first

Perfect medium rare

Perfect medium rare salmon

When I tell you this is a filling healthy and simple meal.  You will not feel deprived of flavor for eating this hearty healthy meal.  I served my salmon and  cauliflower puree with sautéed kale.

Valentine’s Day Lamb Chops

Now that we are in the season of love with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, lamb chops are a great way to show love to your valentine.  I thought it was intimidating at first glance, but after reviewing several recipes, I found that it was a very simple dish.  But a perfect dish for a special occasion, since the chops are pricey  The secret is to ensure the cook temp is right.  The seasonings I chose to use were fresh rosemary and garlic.

After rubbing a paste of salt, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary on the rack of lamb.  I browned the full rack of baby lamb chops on the stove and finished the chops in the oven.  Once the chops were in for about 12 minutes at 400 deg., remove them from the oven, and let them rest before slicing.

I served mine with cauliflower puree.  This recipe is so creamy, without the guilt.  I steam the cauliflower head with cloves of garlic and then blend cauliflower, garlic, salt, white pepper and ghee.  The brussels sprouts were simply sautéed with bacon and season with salt pepper and red pepper flakes.

I made this meal for my guy and he was very impressed, and asked me for details so that I could make it for himself more often.  The cauliflower puree is definitely a side that can substitute the typical mashed potato.  When they say the key to a man’s heart is his stomach, they were talking about lamb chops.

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Lamb Chops with brussels sprouts and cauliflower puree

 

Pot Roast

Look, I know its summer but I was feeling like trying out a slow cooking roast recipe.  I will work to make it my own, but until then… try this Anne Burrell recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/anne-burrell/pot-roast-2-recipe.html

 

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NOLA

During my annual trip to New Orleans, I always try to get at least one great finer dining experience.  I say “finer” dining because these days you can get fine dining quality in a more casual setting.  That being said, the 2014 NOLA trip took me to another Emeril Lagasse restaurant.

NOLA is steps from the French Quarter.  It is clear that the service at Emeril’s restaurants is consistently impeccable.  They are very attentive, and of course the food stands alone.

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Roasted beet salad

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Stuffed Fried Chicken Wings (stuffed with – shrimp, pork, mushrooms and veggies)

IMG_3147 Garlic Crusted Drum Fish with potato bacon hash

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GRILLED PORK CHOP

brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes ∙ toasted pecans ∙ caramelized onion reduction sauce

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KEY LIME BREAD PUDDING

Vanilla Meringue, Key Lime Curd, Rum-Ginger Caramel Sauce, Graham Cracker Ice Cream

 

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WARM OOEY GOOEY CAKE

Moist Chocolate Cake, Marshmallows, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla Ice Cream

When you get to NOLA I have a pretty good lit of placed to have a nice dinner, NOLA is on the list.

 

 

 

 

 

Brussels Sprouts Anyone Will Like

This Thanksgiving I had a small gathering and wanted to ensure that all of my guests had options to be able to get full.  I had some that didn’t eat pork, some that didn’t eat meat, and others that wanted healthy options.  On the menu were the following traditional dishes:

  • roasted turkey
  • turkey gravy
  • homemade cranberry sauce
  • dressing (also known as stuffing)
  • collard greens (with turkey stock)
  • green beans (with turkey stock)
  • candied sweet potatoes
  • dinner rolls
  • Apple Pie

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For the non traditional options that still provided a thanksgiving feast, the following dishes were served:

Yes, you will like these brussels sprouts and the recipe is so simple, I modified it a bit from the original.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of brussel sprouts cut in half
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 mijool dates minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • Italian Seasoning to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a saute pan to medium with oil, onion, dates, and garlic, until vegetables have softened.  Add the brussels sprouts and salt, and saute for 5-7 minutes, if the brussels sprouts have not cooked through add about 1/4 cup of water, and cover to allow the veggies to steam for an additional minute.

This very straight forward recipe will convert the everyday person that would normally look past the brussels sprouts, as well as provide a healthy option for dinner.

 

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Toloache 50

I always struggle finding good food in Midtown Manhattan, but last year I stumbled upon this spot, and I have been back a few times since.  It is a great place to experiment a bit with your palate.  I have yet to get up the nerve to try the Oaxacan style dried grasshoppers tacos, but I have dined at Toloache at 251 W. 50th St. several times, and really enjoyed everything so far.

My most recent visit was another great experience.  We started with a traditional guacamole, they have staff making guacamole nonstop, in front of the brick oven that cooks several of the dishes.

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I’m not usually a fan of the brussels sprouts, but these, with what I think was cotija cheese, were so good.

IMG_1888Pescado Taco – Baja-style tilapia, spicy jicama slaw, and guacamole

Fresh and light tacos with a delicious crunchy slaw.  I predict my next lunch stop in Midtown will be for these tacos.  The fish tacos are a perfect lunch bite.

IMG_1889Costilla & Tuetano Tacos – Beef short ribs, bone marrow, roasted red onion jalapeno chiles toreados, Thai basil

For a bit of a heavier bite, the beef short rib tacos were perfect, and what made them perfect was the bone marrow on top of them.  And to wash all of that down was a nice cold Margarita.  Toloache has a great list of Margaritas, from sweet to spicy and finally traditional.  I went with the sweet and had a Skinny (Agave Nectar instead of sugar) strawberry margarita.

Though we didn’t stay for dessert this visit, I have had the Tres Leches Cake, and it was, in a word, awesome.

The great news about Toloache is that it is open for lunch, brunch and dinner, has 3 locations, and the service is great.  Although it is a bit noisy, it is a great place to dine and enjoy the bar.

The Toloache brand is led by Chef owner Julian Medina.  He has an awesome road to success story.  After being discovered in Mexico City by Chef Richard Sandoval, he became Chef de Cuisine of Maya, an upscale Mexican restaurant.  And the kicker that is the most impressive, he still decided to pursue a culinary education at The French Culinary Institute.

The Frog and the Peach

On a whim, a friend and I decided to grab an elegant dinner at one of the top restaurants in New Brunswick New Jersey.  The Frog and the Peach is a great place for a date, or a quiet place to catch up with friends.  The bartenders know what they are doing, and the kitchen does superb.  Here is the run down:

Za’atar Spiced Flatbread Herb Puree, Chickpeas, Peppers, Olives, House Made Yogurt Cheese

Za’atar Spiced Flatbread
Herb Puree, Chickpeas, Peppers, Olives,
House Made Yogurt Cheese

 

Slow Poached Egg Crispy Stone Ground Polenta, Hen-of-the-Wood Mushroom, Red Sorrel, Amontillado Sherry |

Slow Poached Egg
Crispy Stone Ground Polenta, Hen-of-the-Wood Mushroom, Red Sorrel, Amontillado Sherry

 

Pan Roasted Rabbit Saddle  Herb Stuffed, Bacon and Swiss Chard Gratin, Tomato Vinaigrette

Pan Roasted Rabbit Saddle
Herb Stuffed, Bacon and Swiss Chard Gratin,
Tomato Vinaigrette

 

Peach Dessert

Peach Dessert

The Frog and The Peach, never disappoints.  The service is great, and the food, is top notch.

The Frog and The Peach kitchen is led by Executive chef Bruce Lefebvre, CIA graduate.  He has a wealth of experience, including working for Charlie Palmer.  Not only is Chef Bruce the Executive Chef, he is also the owner since 2012.  If you are passing through the Rutgers University area, and are interested in an elegant and tasty meal, make a reservation at The Frog and The Peach.

 

Dream Big

Dream-Big

 

Have you ever woke up one day or just began to get clarity about your life’s purpose or better yet, your passion?

Let me back up by saying this post is not really about a particular recipe, or even a particular food experience.  This post is more about ensuring that you decide early to pursue your passion.

I’ve been an engineer for 12 years working for the same company.  The work has taken me to different places in the US, taught me a ton about dealing with different personalities, and problem solving.  And it has also helped me find what I truly have passion for.  When I moved away and out of my parents house, I was forced into a kitchen that I really hadn’t had a great deal of interest in, so I thought.  Throughout high-school, I worked at a rotisserie chicken joint, and learned a ton about prepping, but at that point, I just liked making money.  But when I had to begin to cook for myself I began to try different recipes, and I began to challenge myself to improve my skills.

I say all of that to say that on my journey to grow into a big time leader within the company I have worked for, for over a decade (wow, that is a long time), I had a moment of clarity, well several moments of clarity, that I have a passion that I can not ignore, for food, and everything surrounding it.  I want to encourage those not sure of their passion to search for it, and once you find it, you have a few choices.

Choice #1 Drop everything and follow your passion with reckless abandon… ummm that is good, and works for many, but I have never been a huge risk taker, and I think that has served me well in life thus far.

Choice #2 Study your passion, and commit to dedicating the time to make it a larger part of your life, all while ensuring that you learn everything that there is to learn, in your current career.  Move up that corporate ladder and increase your understanding of your purpose, and your lessons in your main career.  This is more my speed, while I have a total passion for food, I have a passion for challenges.  Challenging myself to climb as high as I can in my corporate career provides me a certain level of excitement.  And the stability that it provides in my life and to my lifestyle, certainly doesn’t hurt as well.

The important thing is that you recognize the signs and those clarifying moments that reveal your passion and purpose.  Its not important to make money on your passion, but it is important that you feed it in some way that allows you to acknowledge it and not turn your back on it.  There is nothing like getting so caught up with life that you turn around and regret that you didn’t dedicate the time you could have to pursue your life’s passion.

Dream Big, and Live Bigger